We all saw it – Finland made it to the 2021 Super Bowl – not to play but to be on General Motors’ 90-second-long ad. It was a huge thing to see Finland mentioned, especially being an expatriate living so far from my home country.

But how on earth did they pick our country to be part of their ad? Perhaps it had something to do with the General Motors CEO Mary Barra being a Finn.

Mary Barra, maiden name Makela, is an American business woman. She has been the CEO of GM since January 2014. She is also the first female CEO of a major automaker.

Barra was born in Royal Oak, in Michigan in 1961. Her grandfather Viktor Mäkelä moved to the United States from Finland, a small village of Kankaanpää, from a former municipality of Köyliö. Village of Kankaanpää is in Satakunta province as is the city of Kankaanpää, and these two places should not be mixed up together (after all they are 108 kilometers apart from each other). In the US, Viktor married Maria Luoma who was from Teuva, Finland. They lived in Minnesota and got three kids. One was called Reino, or by his American name Ray Makela. Ray married second generation Finnish-American Eva Pyykkönen and Mary is their daughter

Mary’s father Ray worked at Pontiac car factory for nearly 40 years and this might have had something to do with Mary’s career choice. Mary studied electrical engineering at General Motors institute and started working at GE when she was only 18 years old. Her career has been astonishing at GE. She has hold positions like Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering, Product Development, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain to name a few. In 2014 she became the CEO.

Barra’s vision and plans for GM are marvelous. “GM envisions a world with zero crashes, to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity – time” writes GM company webpage.

I wonder if we can say that Marry Barra, maiden name Mäkelä, inherited the Finnish sisu and work moral. And perhaps we can make the assumption, based on the GE Super Bowl ad, that she is proud to have ancestry from Northern Europe; from Finland.

Will Ferrell in GM Super Bowl ad
Will Ferrell starring in GM’s Super Bowl commercial, an extension of the company’s “Everybody In” campaign.